A “cocktail party of mastodons, pineapples and swizzlesticks”: Hudson Yards architects talk about how projects interact

This was the second time the designers met

TRD New York /
Jun.June 22, 2018 03:36 PM

Left to right: Bill Pederson, Liz DIller, David Rockwell, Thomas Woltz, David Manfredi, Thomas Heatherwick and the Hudson Yards (Credit: KPF, Getty Images, CMAA, and Hudson Yards NY)

Hudson Yards might be a “cocktail party” of buildings designed to co-mingle, but it didn’t result from numerous meetings between the architects.

The designers behind the megadevelopment met on the 24th floor of 10 Hudson Yards on Friday — the second time the group has convened in the project’s decade-plus history. Seven architects from the firms that designed most of the first phase of the 28-acre project spoke on a panel at an event hosted by developer, Related Companies.

Bill Pedersen, co-founding partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, whose firm designed 10, 30, and 55 Hudson Yards, compared the role of tall buildings in cities to that of attendees of a cocktail party.

“They have a responsibility not to stand off in the corner by themselves, but they have a responsibility to gesture and talk with each other,” he said.

Thomas Woltz, whose firm Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects handled the design of the project’s public plaza, called it a cocktail party of “mastodons, pineapples, sheds, swizzlesticks and bubble mats.”

However, the architects of Hudson Yards didn’t meet often to discuss how these buildings would communicate. Liz Diller, whose firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro worked on 15 Hudson Yards and the Shed with the Rockwell Group, said there were “little rings of connection [between the architects], but none of us really knew what was going to happen.” Ken Lewis, a partner at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, joked that he would occasionally see the other architects coming out of meetings with Related. Still, he said SOM’s 35 Hudson Yards is aware of KPF’s 30 Hudson Yards, stepping to the side of the office tower in a polite, yet unwieldy dance. (Pedersen compared Hudson Yards to elephants dancing.)

Thomas Heatherwick’s hive-shaped sculpture, known as “the Vessel,” was commissioned by Related after the other designs for Hudson Yard had already been settled. He said he wasn’t exactly confident that Related’s Steve Ross would go for his design.

“It’s astonishing to us that the project is happening,” Heatherwick said.

Pedersen said he initially found the sculpture’s design “jarring” but now sees it as a transforming force in the development. “Thomas, you win,” he said.

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